We Are Such Experts….

I first published this article HERE

I’ve just arrived home from an annual trip taken with three of my best mates who I’ve known since school. Each year, we attend a day of test cricket, something that we all enjoy and look forward to. Not only is it good to spend time with friends, it’s great to watch a sport that we all enjoy.

A day at the cricket for four mates who have known each other for over 30 years and with many of those either playing or watching cricket together, also sets the scene for us to provide commentary, views and analysis as we watch the game. I suspect if you were a ‘fly on the wall’ listening to our conversations throughout the day, you might be fooled into thinking that we were ‘experts’.

Here are a few quotes that I can remember from our ‘day at the cricket’:

“What was he thinking, that’s such a silly mistake.”

“You’d think he would know better playing at this level”

“I just don’t understand why he would do it like that, it makes no sense to me”

“He should just do what he did last game, he’s been on a real roll over the past year”

“I just knew that was going to happen”

Do any of these comments sound similar to what people working in an industry that you and I know, might say?

When we take on the role of expert, whether in our analysis of sport or in risk and safety, the danger is that we see people as ‘problems to be fixed’, rather than people to be met. We did a lot of fixing in just one day!

When my mates and I get together to watch sport, it’s easy to become ‘expert’. It’s quite amusing actually when I reflect on some of the Blogs that I’ve written over the past couple of years. There is definitely no immunity to the temptation of being an ‘expert’, just because I’ve increased my knowledge!

This of course doesn’t mean that my mates and I are going to stop our ‘armchair’ commentary when we sit down and watch sport together. It’s fun and it’s part of ‘what we do’. Our commentary and ‘expert’ views aren’t likely to influence anyone that really matters.

However, my mates and I are not alone in moving to become ‘expert’. So what are some other examples?

Sports commentators world over are classic examples of being ‘experts’ in others. For instance, in cricket, the Channel Nine Commentary Team has become legendary in Australia. What is obvious to me know is how their comments are filled with hindsight bias, confirmation bias and availability bias.

Listening to their commentary, there is much talk of ‘mistakes’, ‘errors’ and ‘failure’, or at the other end of ‘legends’, ‘greatness’ and ‘heroes’. It seems like every sportsperson must perform perfectly during every game or if they don’t, there are any number of experts prepared to offer answers and solutions.

Sound familiar at all?

I guess we all can be experts from time to time, it’s hard to resist the temptation of providing views on how others can do things better or different.

Can you think of an example of when you have become an expert in someone?

With so much discussion about ‘expert’, I thought it would be useful to examine just what an expert is and what someone needs to do to be considered an ‘expert’.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers provides a useful definition with his ‘10,000 Hour Rule’. Simply put, Gladwell proposes that to be considered ‘expert’ in anything, one must have practiced that skill or activity for at least 10,000 hours. While not getting caught up in the specific numbers (i.e. I don’t propose that 10,000 hours should be captured in a log book as we are prone to do in risk and safety), I think Gladwell has probably got this right.

This go me thinking of some questions about being ‘expert’ in risk and safety?

  • I wonder what makes one an expert in risk and safety? What do we spend 10,000 hours doing?
  • If we study in risk and safety, what could that make us ‘expert’ in? Is it law? Is it process? Is it machines and/or engineering?
  • If we do spend so much time being ‘experts’ in ‘objects’, what does this mean for our understanding of people?
  • When we do think that we are an ‘expert’, how much of this is really just about ‘hindsight bias’, ‘confirmation bias’, ‘availability bias’ and ‘representative bias’? We are all bias and that’s ok…

Are you easily tempted into ‘expert’ mode? What are you ‘expert’ (10,000 hours) in? What do you do to deal with the seduction of being an ‘expert’? How do you feel if someone becomes an ‘expert’ in you?

We can all be such experts at times.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.


Author:           Robert Sams

Phone:             0424 037 112

Email:              robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:                www.dolphyn.com.au

Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook


Not Much Like Safety….

First published HERE

Not Much Like Safety…

A visit to The Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s Kings Cross is a treat. This is a place where people don’t seem too proud to say that, for one reason or another and at a point of time in their life, they may have been, or perhaps still are, ‘by the wayside’.

There is so much about The Wayside that I could write about (e.g. the semiotics, the language used, the way in which community is fostered – all of these things affect how people feel about, and contribute to, ‘The Wayside’), however there was one thing that particularly struck me during a recent visit. It was a sign at the front door as people are welcomed into The Wayside that proudly declares that:

“We’re not much like a church, which is fine if you’re not much like a Christian”

To me this sign sums up nicely what The Wayside is all about.

It seems that while the people at The Wayside aim to practice the Christian values of forgiveness, compassion and understanding, at the same time they also resist the seduction to overly focus on the rule, process and bureaucracy that, in my experience, is usually associated with church. The Wayside feels like a good balance between ‘method and being’ and between ‘tight and loose?

I wonder whether the approach adopted by The Wayside provides those of us working in risk and safety with an inspiration for how we could go about things?

Do we need to do many of the things we currently do in our approach to risk and safety, such as all the processes/systems, our obsession to control, an over focus on efficiency and our fixation on measurement? Or, is a change in paradigm needed in order for us to better deal with risk? Could we learn something from The Wayside?

During a recent visit to The Wayside, I was made feel welcome and part of the community. I didn’t feel the need to be a ‘card carrying member’ in order to participate in the weekly service, I simply needed to ‘be’ with those who attended.

There was no induction process; instead I was ‘welcomed’. There was no hierarchy of where to sit; you just took a seat. There was no dress code; people were free to dress as they please. There were no rules that I needed to recite; just ‘being’. In fact, there was very little formal process at all, it felt good.

What would more ‘welcoming’, ‘freedom’ and ‘being’ mean for risk and safety?

Graham Long is the Pastor and CEO of The Wayside and he has a pretty special way of going about things. He sure does live up to the welcome sign at the front door. The weekly service at The Wayside, in the few times that I have attended, is ‘no ordinary’ service.

What would more ‘no ordinary’ mean for risk and safety?

Sure there are some of the usual things you may expect to experience at a weekly service, but to me, it seems like Graham sees the weekly service in a similar way to how he sees ‘meeting‘, which he so adequately describes in his book Love Over Hate as;

“…when a meeting between two people truly takes place, when there is just you and me and we are interacting in a very real and honest way, dropping agendas and stepping into a wide open space where the air is fresh and competitors become brothers and sisters and threats become people, this is when we come to life.” (Graham Long in Love Over Hate, 2013, p.35)

These are the words of a man who ‘meets’ people who live ‘by the wayside’. People with addictions, people who have experienced suffering and people who would seem like they have lost everything in life. If ever there could be a temptation to move to ‘fixing’, I reckon The Wayside would be the place to do it. But as Graham says “they don’t see people as problems to be fixed”. If they did, that would change their attitude to people, they would be seen as ‘objects’, and as ‘things’. As Graham would say, “people are no-things”.

What would more of a ‘people are no-thing’s approach mean for risk and safety?

Instead, The Wayside is built on the premise of ‘meeting’. Sure there are some formal programs aimed at supporting people to develop everyday life skills and I’m sure there would be processes required for funding and managing the building and physical assets etc…. However, these things don’t stand out when you experience The Wayside, they are not in their language.

Rather, it seems that everything that is done at The Wayside is underpinned by ‘meeting’ where there is no agenda. People are not judged for what they have done or who they are. Confession and fallibility are met with forgiveness and understanding, not blame and punishment.

There is also no requirement to systematise ‘meeting’, the key is being aware of, and “dropping”, agendas. The Wayside doesn’t need to have a documented process for everything they do, ‘meeting’ is not about a ‘process’, it is about relationships.

What would more ‘meeting‘ mean for risk and safety?

The weekly service at The Wayside is like no other ‘chapel’ I have attended. It is not just about the reciting of words and phrases (sound familiar?), this is a place where people are equal and where “Saint Interruptus” (sorry, you just have to be there to understand this) is as important as the Pastor.

In some Churches I’ve attended ‘prayer’ seems to just be about words and phrases being aimlessly repeated and recited, often without much conviction or meaning. At The Wayside however ‘prayer’ is about sharing stories, listening to each other and asking questions. There is little of the usual indoctrination, there is not much reciting and there were no superficial conversations. Instead, things seemed ‘real’.

What would less ‘indoctrination‘ mean for risk and safety?

When you visit The Wayside there no rules for attendance, no screening of participants and everyone can have a say at any time, especially “Saint Interruptus“.

There is some basic ‘organising’ that takes place. The service starts at 11am, there are chairs placed so that people can sit and there is a rough agenda for how things work. However that seems about it.

In a world that seems consumed with control, individualism, objects, ‘privatisation of self‘ (one of Graham’s sayings that I just love), process and efficiency, The Wayside is a great place to reflect and work out how much these things really matter.

I do wonder whether there are things we can take from The Wayside and apply in risk and safety? Are there ways in which we may become more human and understanding in our approach, rather than fall for the temptation to systematise everything that we do?

What would ‘less like safety’, if we were not that into process, control and efficiency, mean for risk and safety?

As usual, we’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

 Author:           Robert Sams

Phone:              0424 037 112

Email:               robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:                 www.dolphyn.com.au

Facebook:        Follow Dolphyn on Facebook


I’m 100% Certain About That…..

I’m 100% Certain About That….

I’ve just arrived home after being away for work all week. For almost all of the two hour drive home, I was tracking parallel to storm clouds all around me, and on the radio, the broadcast was regularly interrupted with ‘weather alerts’ warning of severe storms in my area.

When I arrived home I checked out the weather radar application on my phone and sure enough it seems that storms are tracking my way. I then checked my weather forecasting application, and not surprisingly, it is predicting storms over the next few hours. Not only is it predicting storms to happen, it is suggesting that there is 100% chance of them occurring (check out the photo with this story).

This got me thinking about what 100% ‘chance’ actually means? Do this mean that rain will definitely fall in all of areas in which I live during all of the times that it is predicted?

I wonder whether we really understand the numbers that we use so regularly in prediction, particularly in risk? Could it be that everyone may not understand these numbers in the same way? If we don’t all have the same understanding of the references that we use when communicating about risk, what does this mean when we agree on a risk score? What impact may this have on how we deal with, and understand risk?

This reminded me of a story shared by Gerd Gigerenzer in his book Risk Savvy:

“The probability that it will rain on Saturday is 50 percent. The chance that it will rain on Sunday is also 50 percent. Therefore, the probability that it will rain on the weekend is 100 percent.” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

Gigerenzer then goes on to note about this story:

“Most of us will smile at this. But do you know what it means when the weather report announces a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow? 30 percent of what? I live in Berlin. Most Berliners believe that it will rain tomorrow 30 percent of the time, that is for seven to eight hours. Others think that it will rain in 30 percent of the region; that is most likely not where they live. Most New Yorkers think both are nonsense. They believe that it will rain on 30 percent of the days for which this announcement is made; that is, there will most likely be no rain at all tomorrow” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

I remember when I first read this story that it resonated with me. I considered how relevant this is in risk and safety. We use numbers and percentages all the time to evaluate, assess, analyse and to attempt to understand risk all the time. But do we have a common understanding of what these numbers and percentages mean? Gigerenzer further notes that:

“Left on their own, people intuitively fill in a reference class that makes sense to them, such as how many hours, where, or how heavily it rains. More imaginative minds will come up with others” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

I wonder how this may play out in risk and safety?

I refer finally to Gigerenzer when he sums this up nicely when referring to the latest weather forecasting technology, by suggesting:

“But greater precision has not lead to greater understanding of what the message really is. The confusion over probability of rain has persisted in fact since the very first time there were broadcast to the public in 1965 in the US. The confusion is not just limited to rain, but occurs whenever a probability is attached to a single event.” (Gigerenzer, 2014, p.4)

Gigerenzer’s advice to readers is “Always ask for the reference class. Percent of what?”

I wonder whether Gigerenzer can help all of us in risk and safety to become more risk savvy. The question is, are we prepared to explore these questions or are we stuck in blissful ignorance believing that everyone is thinking in the same way about risk? Do we need better and more meaningful conversations with each other in order to better understand what we mean when talking about risk?

Update; its just hit 5.25pm and it isn’t raining yet. I guess that means that 100% does not mean it will rain during 100% of the time that it was predicted. I wonder what it does mean though?

There’s a chance we might get rain tonight……

We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.

Author:        Robert Sams

Phone:            0424 037 112

Email:             robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:               www.dolphyn.com.au

Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook

 FIRST PUBLISHED ON http://www.safetyrisk.net

Efficiency, Control and Their Affect on Others

For some people, being organised, efficient and in control over others can be like an addiction. It can seem like they just can’t get enough of control efficiency. This is typical in risk and safety and is often enacted in the name of ‘your safety is our priority’. Safety suggests that it is about caring for, and looking after people, yet paradoxically this care, in the form of control, is quite possibly having the opposite effect.

When our life is dominated by efficiency, by a desire to control (both overtly and covertly) and where our focus is on ‘doing’, this can, and will, impact on our relationships with others, even if we are well intended in our actions.

I can resonate with this. I’ve previously shared that I’m naturally a ‘doer’ and I can understand this addiction.


Author:          Robert Sams

Phone:             0424 037 112

Email:              robert@dolphyn.com.au

Web:                www.dolphyn.com.au

Facebook:      Follow Dolphyn on Facebook